Bradley Taylor speaks to Georgia Southern entrepreneurship class
On April 17, two of Georgia Southern University entrepreneurship classes had the honor of receiving a lecture by Bradley Taylor. Taylor is a software engineer, farmer, systems builder, and parallel entrepreneur who currently resides in Sylvania, Ga. Jim Williams, the Chair of the Advisory Council for the Center for Entrepreneurial Learning and Leadership, hosted Taylor during the lectures.
Following his 15 years as a professional software developer, Taylor started a managed services company that supports high growth web applications for Software-As-A Service companies known as Rails Machine. After five years of success, Taylor decided to take time and explore different professions. He became an EMT/Firefighter, hot sauce peddler, Crossfit coach, and even a Chinese tea specialist before he launched LJ Woods Farm in 2011. Woods Farms focuses on the production of all natural, heritage meat for local markets. In 2012, after observing the market landscape for locally produced food, Taylor launched Revival Foods with a goal to simplify access to local, farm fresh food grown with integrity.
With having such an extensive background, Taylor had several incredible stories to share with the students. He shared what his personal philosophy was with the class. Based on the “7 story topics” for the intrepid entrepreneur, his philosophy is explained below.
1 – Listen to stories, not advice:
According to Taylor, people read through different mediums. However, he believes that does not help answer all the questions in life. There is still a need to “see real life.” He never really saw himself as an entrepreneur, just a computer programmer. Through his experience, Taylor learned asking others about his business wasn’t always the best. These people were not always informed about his company, and therefore did not give him the best advice. He believes the best advice a person can give is through experiences. Whether the idea worked or didn’t work, it will always teach a person something.
2 – Have a story about what you’re not:
Taylor explained to students about his farm, the source of Revival Foods. A producer of local food not processed, Taylor’s farm works to produce locally and sell directly to the consumers. His farm raises Pineywoods, cows of a Spanish heritage. He specifically sought out these cows for something different in the market.
3- Focus on the how, not the what:
He asked the students to think about what their business ideas were NOT about. He explained he liked to focus on the how, not on the what. Taylor gave the example of Subway restaurants. There are over 36,000 restaurants around the world primarily selling sandwiches and salads. Taylor has his own idea of opening a sandwich restaurant which would combine products he produced into a final product. His farm would produce items such as fresh ham and cheese as well as everything else needed in order to make the final product: a tasty sandwich! Taylor explained he wanted to “focus on how I am going to get fresh products and not on what fresh products I am going to get it.” Taylor encouraged the students to think about what their values are as an entrepreneur. In his case, one of Taylor’s most important values is working to create a great product for the public.
4 – Make more money than you spend:
Taylor explained this does not mean that all profit needs to come in one day; it is to be over a period of time. According to Taylor, ‘cash is king’ and a business has to be cash flow positive. He illustrated this by explaining how he started his first business by spending as little as possible until revenues were being generated.
5 – Spend time being in business not working on the business:
Taylor’s first original idea for selling meat was actually setting up a trailer behind restaurants. His first attempt was not successful. He changed locations and surprisingly his sales doubled. Another example given by Taylor was an online store built by his team to sell the company’s products. Their thought process was that people would pre-order items online. However, it turned out that almost no one wanted to buy the products online. That made it harder on the company, on how many products they should produce, what products to order, etc. He told the students that his company is not making tons of money but they are in business and that was what is important. They are spreading the company’s point of view.
6- Banks don’t lend money to people who need it:
The point Taylor made was that he had to get help from someone with a preexisting relationship with the bank to build trust with the bank. Without credibility and trust it is often difficult to borrow money to start a business. Financing was difficult in Taylor’s case and he had to demonstrate that his business would survive on its own, only then was he able to access finance to accelerate growth.
7 – Don’t borrow money to pay for living assets.
Through his farming experiencing, Taylor learned anything that breeds can die. One of his experiences taught him goats can easily die and one unexpected disease and their gone. That was expensive and not a good experience but Taylor pointed out that if he had borrowed money to buy the goats it would have been a lot more painful and difficult because he would not have had an asset. Likewise it is an error to borrow money to pay employee salaries, if they leave or don’t work out then it is a loss that is not easy to recover.
Posted in Guest Speakers
Tags: Bradley Taylor, Jim Williams, LJ Woods Farms, Rails Machine, Revival Foods